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China building artificial islands and airstrips in South China Sea

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YANGJIANG, CHINA - DECEMBER 22: (CHINA OUT) Two maritime affairs officials show the Chinese national flag as the wreck of the 800-year-old sunken merchant ship "Nanhai No.1" (or "South China Sea No. 1") is raised by a specially designed steel basket from the bottom of the sea in the background, on December 22, 2007 in South China Coast near Yangjiang of Guangdong Province, China. The 30 metres (about 100 feet) wooden vessel, discovered in 1987, containing thousands of gold, silver and porcelain trading goods. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)
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Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)
Two maritime affairs officials show the Chinese national flag (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

By NewsGram Staff Writer

China has claimed that it built artificial islands on reefs in the Spratly Islands — which are also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines — to improve weather forecasting.

The official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, People’s Daily, published two interviews with two scientists — Ding Yihui from the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and director of China Meteorological Administration Zheng Guogang — to back up this claim.

The argument comes a day before US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue on Tuesday in Washington.

The meeting is expected to address the issue of Chinese structures on the islands.

Both scientists defended the new facilities as aimed at enhancing weather forecasts, in a region with extreme climatic conditions.

“The construction of infrastructure for observation and communication is the first step towards enhancing and improving marine meteorological monitoring, warning, forecasting, prediction and scientific research,” Ding said.

According to Zheng, better weather forecast is a responsibility that China owes the region, to help neighbouring countries avoid ravages of typhoons and dangerous natural phenomena, and increase security for dense fishing and maritime traffic in the area.

Those same neighbouring countries, however, had expressed alarm last year seeing Chinese activity on regional islands and reefs, a concern backed by Washington.

Beijing has repeatedly stonewalled Washington’s request to stop building on these islands.

Meanwhile, South China Morning Post on Monday quoted analysts as saying that China could use such facilities to deploy its J-11 fighter-bombers in the area, a model developed between 1990 and 2009 from the Soviet Su-27.

The J-11 has a flight range of 1,500 km, expandable with the installation of additional fuel tanks under its wings.

With such devices in the area, China could extend the presence of its air force by an additional 1,000 km to the south.

In fact, in one of the islands, a three-km track is being readied (which can be used not only by a J-11 but also by transport aircraft), and together with its aircraft carrier, ‘Liaoning’, it would allow Beijing to expand its air influence to defensive operations in mid-ocean for the first time.

(With inputs from IANS)

 

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Tibetan Activist Sentenced to 5 Years of Imprisonment in China

A Tibetan education activist was on Tuesday sentenced to five years in prison by a Chinese court for inciting separatism, Amnesty International (AI) said, calling the sentence "unjust" and urging his immediate release.

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A Tibetan education activist was on Tuesday sentenced to five years in prison by a Chinese court for inciting separatism, Amnesty International (AI) said, calling the sentence “unjust” and urging his immediate release.

The main evidence against Tashi Wangchuk, who was sentenced by a court in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai province, was a 2015 video by the New York Times about his campaign for saving the Tibetan language, according to his lawyer.

“Today’s verdict against Tashi Wangchuk is a gross injustice. He is being cruelly punished for peacefully drawing attention to the systematic erosion of Tibetan culture,” AI East Asia Research Director Joshua Rosenzweig was cited as saying by Efe news.

Before his arrest, the 31-year-old activist had expressed concern over the fact that many Tibetan children could not fluently speak their native language, contributing to the progressive extinction of the Tibetan culture.

Representational Image: Tibetan Teachings
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

“Tashi must be immediately and unconditionally released,” demanded AI, pointing out that the activist had already spent two years in detention without access to his family.

Rosenzweig claimed that Tashi Wangchuk “was a human rights defender and prisoner of conscience who used the media and China’s own legal system in his struggle to preserve Tibetan language, culture and identity”.

In the New York Times video, the activist had highlighted “the extreme discrimination and restrictions on freedom of expression that Tibetans face in China today”.

Also Read: An Attempt to Preserve Ancient Tibetan Literature

Non-profit Human Rights Watch (HRW) also criticized the prison term for Tashi Wangchuk, whose “only crime was to peacefully call for the right of minority peoples to use their own language”, a right safeguarded by the Chinese Constitution.

“His conviction on bogus separatism charges show that critics of government policy on minorities have no legal protections,” said HRW China Director Sophie Richardson. (IANS)

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